Ganesha, Master of Obstacles by Ray J. Rousseau

Ganesha or Ganapati, the master and the remover of obstacles.
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Image of Ganesha or Ganapati, the master and remover of obstacles.

Ganesha, Master of Obstacles
by Ray J. Rousseau

Ganesha is a widely worshiped deity in the Hindu pantheon and veneration for Ganesha extends to Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. Like all the major deities of the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha has many names representing different aspects but he is best and most widely known as Ganesha or sometimes also as Ganapati.

The well known Sanskrit mantra, “Om gam ganapataye namaha” (“I bow down to Ganapati”) contains the Ganesha bija, or seed mantra: gam. This Ganesha mantra is widely used in japa, japa is a Sanskrit word representing a meditative repetition of a mantra or “word of divine power”. The mantra gam is mentioned in the Ganapati Atharvarshisha which is a Hindu text dedicated to the deity Ganesha. Devotion to Ganesha or Ganapati, is widely distributed on the Indian sub-continent and it extends far into South East Asia and even beyond where his likeness is found in millions of homes because of his near universal reputation as a guardian deity. Ganesha is identified with the Hindu mantra AUM (OM) and it is said that he personifies the primal sound of OM(2). Devotees see similarities between the shape of Ganesh's large elephant head in the written shape of OM as represented in the Devanagari and Tamil scripts.

Sanskrit Ganesha Mantra:

Vakra-Tunndda Maha-Kaaya Surya-Kotti Samaprabha
Nirvighnam Kuru Me Deva Sarva-Kaaryessu Sarvadaa

English translation:
O Lord Ganesha, of Curved Trunk, Large Body, and with the Brilliance of a Million Suns,
Please Make All my Works Free of Obstacles, Always(1)

Image of Ganesha or Ganapati with Shiva and Parvati.

The name “Ganesha” is a Sanskrit compound word, joining the words “gana”, meaning a group or multitude, and “isha” meaning lord or master. Ganapati, a synonym for Ganesha, is a compound composed of gaṇa, meaning “group”, and pati, meaning “ruler” or “lord”. Ganesha is most popularly believed to be the son of Shiva and Parvati(1), although the Purinas(2) give several different versions of his creation or birth.

Ganesh's most distinctive feature, or iconography, is of course his elephant head and this makes him very easy to identify among Hindu deities and the Puranas provide several explanations for how he got his elephant head. The principle qualities of the elephant in most of India and Asia are regarded as wisdom, strength and effortlessness. Spiritually speaking then, the elephant represents both Gyan Shakti(3) (knowledge-power) and Karma Shakti (action-power) and so the enormous head of the elephant signifies both wisdom and knowledge. Though Ganesha is worshiped as the elephant-headed God, the form (swaroop) is primarily intended to illustrate the formless (parabrahma roopa) and the physical aspects of the elephant in Ganesh's earthly manifestation and these aspects are best understood as a metaphor for those qualities the elephant represents: strength, wisdom and knowledge. Ganesha is the patron of the arts, letters and learning, the sciences and he is also the deva (Lord) of intellect and wisdom. However, it is as the remover of obstacles that Ganesha is most widely revered and his primary function in Hindu theology is as both the master and the remover of obstacles.(4)
It is as the god or deity of beginnings and the master and remover of obstacles that Ganesha is there for honored by reciting the Vakra-Tunndda Mantra at the start of rituals, festivals and ceremonies or any auspicious or important occasion.

(1) Shiva (“The Auspicious One”) or Mahadeva (“Great God” or “Divine Father”) is regarded as one of the primary forms of God in the Hindu Trinity (Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver and Shiva the destroyer or transformer). Shiva has both fearsome forms, i.e. “the Destroyer” and benevolent aspects such as a householder with wife Parvati and their two children, Ganesha and Kartikeya.
(2) The Puranas (Sanskrit: “of ancient times”) are ancient Hindu texts eulogizing deities; primarily the divine Trimurti of God in Hinduism. Ganesha is written of in the Ganesha Purana and the Mudgala Purana.
(3) Shakti (Sanskrit) meaning “Power” or “empowerment”, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the personification of divine feminine creative power. Shakti is responsible for creation and it is also the agent of all change.
(4) Ganesha, best known as the remover of obstacles, can also place obstacles in the path of those whom he believes need to be checked.

Copyright©2014-2020 Ray J. Rousseau

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